Why Have Road Fatalities Jumped this Year?

Evening vigil for dead accident victim

Roadside memorial for dead car crash victim

With overall road safety improving over the last generation, it may seem counter-intuitive to have a significant jump in road fatalities this year of 2015. However, if the rate of fatal car accidents continues through the end of December, that is what we are looking at this year. According to federal statistics, the rate of fatal accidents has taken a jump. When looking at these stats and significant cases, we can begin to understand why and how that could occur.

As stated previously the overall trend has been going down. There has been an increase in car safety attempts, including new safety features in cars, the Cash for Clunkers program taking older cars off the road, and differences in design. Altogether, this has been combined with a general decline in annual miles driven annually.

Reasons Why 2015 Appears to Be Turning into the Year of the Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident

However, this year appears to be a bit different. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there was a three percent decline in accident fatalities between 2012 and 2013. This year’s pro rated data are pointing to an increase– and there may be several factors why.

  • Increase of driven miles: Due to the upswing in the economy, more miles are undertaken each year. This includes businesses now traveling the road to get goods and services to consumers. In addition, families are now taking more time on the road, leading to higher numbers of accidents.
  • Increase in distracted driving: The number of electronic devices in cars has increased exponentially over the last decade. This can include cell phones, GPS units, tablets, and others. This, combined with lack of education regarding the use of such devices, especially among young people, can cause many issues on the road.

The NHTSA also reported that:

“the percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipulating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014; this was a statistically significant increase.”

This causes thousands of accidents each year, including many fatalities. These factors, coupled with potential changes in driving patterns can help cause the increase in fatalities. Ehline Law has been studying the developing situation and has advice for drivers on how to avoid accidents and fatalities. Keep reading our accident articles for more information.

Causes of Poor Los Angeles Road Conditions

Mapping the bad roads

Topical map of L.A. roads.

Single vehicle accidents are always treated suspiciously by law enforcement. It makes sense, as cops are so used to taking Traffic Collision Reports from victims with two sides of a story. Many police assume that the victim driver was drunk or on drugs and treat the case as a criminal investigation against the driver.

Taking a Look at the Headache of L.A. Roads

The reality is there are cities in Los Angeles and its connected locales with bad roads that can actually kill or maim vehicle occupants and bystanders. The condition of the roads in and around Los Angeles are a topic of constant conversation in the news, especially when it rains or there is a flood. Taking a look at any of the roads of the city can cause headache, especially if you have to drive them daily. There’s a reason that many people traveling through Southern California attempt to avoid the city altogether, especially with concerns about constant heavy traffic.

  • LA Times Interactive Map

The Los Angeles Times has a very interesting interactive map to look at the road conditions across the city. The map also allows users to look at the conditions by road, by district, and by neighborhood. You can see how some of the worst roads are in some of the seemingly obvious places, including Hollywood Hills and Silver Lake. The high number of poor roads is unmistakable for commuters and pedestrians.

  • Our Roads are Among the Poorest in the Country

Two years ago, LA area roads were rated the worst in the country, with the neighboring Valley town of Glendale beating Rhode Island with having the most terrible drivers (check it out here.) A Los Angeles Times article shows just a portion of the street and highway conditions that are of concern. The combination of bad drivers nearby and torn up roads can definitely be costly to taxpayers and commuters. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Washington DC based research group TRIP, the conditions, including potholes and other issues cost each driver over $800 per year.

Almost 9,000 Miles of LA Roads Get a C-Minus Grade?

After a recent federal highway rating system was put in place, LA’s 8,700 miles of roads graded a poor C-minus, while a quarter of which received an F (view source.) Furthermore, officials loudly proclaim that there is a sixty year backlog of urgent repairs needed, and almost two thirds of the roads in the city are in poor condition but commerce is a major factor in slowing the repairs (view source.)

  • Lawyers Can Help Compensate Victims Hurt on Bad Roads

The shape of the roads that you and your family rely on each and every day are of the highest concern. If you have been the victim of an accident due to negligence from Caltrans or the LA DOT, you need to contact an attorney immediately. They are under an obligation to keep the public safe and the roads well maintained. Let’s make sure that they do.

Most Common Causes of California Fatal Car Accidents

Map of Golden State

Sliver shot of California Map

California’s roadways are a dream for many, with miles of open road ahead of them in the sun. However, driving anywhere has its potential dangers. The vast amount of pavement and drivers in the state lead to a statistical fact of car accidents each year. Unfortunately, this also means thousands of deaths on the road each year.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, or OTS’s statistics, in 2013, the total number of fatalities on the state’s roads increased 1.2 percent, totaling up from 2,966 in 2012 to 3,000 in 2013. This is no insignificant number, especially for the families involved in these accident. Even despite driver education, experience, and efforts by car companies to make their vehicles safer, such accidents will remain a certainty for years.

The Many Deadly Factors to Consider Facing California Drivers

To determine many of the causes of fatal accidents in California, many factors must be considered. This is not just a singular issue that is facing the state’s drivers. Common factors include:

  • Auto Company Negligence: There have been some high profile cases of companies shirking their duty and allowing vehicles on the road that have no place being there. These autos are sometimes recalled only after significant public outcry or fatal accidents, or both. This is unacceptable for those that put their lives on the line when driving.
  • Car Culture in California: Car culture in the state has allowed for drivers to get a lot of experience behind the wheel that could prevent other accidents. However, issues that are commonly referred to include the risk of improper turning and not checking for bicyclists, pedestrians, and other vehicles.
  • Weather Issues: While most of California do not see snow issues, the weather can be a common problem. Snow in the northern regions, heavy rain on dry ground, and crosswinds all have roles in fatal accidents.
  • Driving Impaired: This can include drinking and driving, which causes hundreds of deaths in California each year. In addition, there are also issues with people taking prescription meds causing issues when driving.

All of these and other factors combine to cause an environment that should warrant attention. Experience and purchasing safer cars may keep your family safe. If you are ever in need of advice regarding a crash, please reach out to our offices at any time.

Bicycles and Sidewalks?

Old Cracked Sidewalk

Old Cracked Sidewalk

Anyone who has been riding a bicycle for a length of time has heard they should not ride on the sidewalk for a number of reasons, including that it is easier to crash. In some cities it is often illegal for a bicyclist to ride on sidewalks in the state of California. This includes Sacramento County, Fulsom and Galt where bikes cannot be ridden on sidewalks at all. But there are other cities that do allow it (See “Sidewalk Riding Laws Here.”) At the same time on streets within neighborhoods is not uncommon to see cyclists on the sidewalk, but they are generally either children or inexperienced bicyclists. Adult cyclists are generally unaware of the risks riding on the sidewalk can pose.

Bike safety advocates have a number of reasons why this could be dangerous and result in being harmed including:

  • Automobile Dangers: vehicles cross the sidewalk everyday in neighborhoods pulling into their driveway or leaving it and in some cases the driveway may be obstructed from the bikers view by bushes or other obstacles. The driver doesn’t generally stop at to check before reaching the edge of the road, because they are looking for traffic so they can pull out onto the road, not for bicycles. This could easily mean a collision in which the bicyclist would be hurt.
  • Pedestrians: Sidewalks are made for pedestrians to be safe while walking. They often listen to music with earbuds, eat, drink and even play around while walking. They are not always looking for a bicyclist so they can move out of the way and if a bicyclist hits a pedestrian it can cause serious injuries for the person walking and the person riding a bike.
  • Intersections: Intersections are a dangerous place for the bicyclists with vehicles going in different directions and if the rider is on the sidewalk it is possible parked cars are obstructing their view and the driver’s view of the bike. This reason and other kind of obstructions like bushes or trees that obstruct the motorists view can give them little or no time to react before a collision happens seriously injuring the bicyclist.

When the Sidewalk is Safer

While in some cities or counties riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is not permitted and bicycle safety advocates warn against it, but there are some situations where riding on the sidewalk is a safer option. Not all roadways have bicycle lanes or areas where the rider can be safe with speeding traffic, areas with numerous potholes and grates or other dangerous elements. In these cases the cyclists feels safer riding on the sidewalk and it could be the safer choice.

When it is safer to ride on the sidewalk, not that bicyclists should violate the law, but in avoiding the higher risk of riding on the road then the rider needs to follow some basic rules. These rules can help keep them safe and pedestrians who are permitted to use the sidewalk.

  • Ride slowly this is a key rule that shouldn’t be broken. Riding on the sidewalk is not the same as the road for speed.
  • Yield to pedestrians, because on the sidewalk they have the right-of-way, just like on the road there are rules to protect people from harm on sidewalks.
  • If necessary walk the bike making it safer for you and for other pedestrians.
  • Use extreme caution when approaching driveways, or areas where there are bushes that could hide a driveway from view.
  • Use caution if riding on the outside of the sidewalk where there may be parked cars because a car door opening can cause serious harm.
  • Be cautious at intersections.
  • Cross streets at crosswalks only just as pedestrians should.

Ehline Law Firm PC the Southern California bicycle injury attorney (Read More.) hopes bicyclists will find this useful information about sidewalks and the possibility it may not be legal to ride on them in your area, but sometimes it is safer than the road though we do not advocate violating the law.

California Senate Bill 411 Signed into Law—Legal to Film Police Officers

Many California citizens have heard the demand from the police: “sir, please turn of the camera,” or “turn off the camera or you’ll be arrested,” or words to that effect. What most of us know who have had contacts with law enforcement, is that most cops hate to be filmed. From the academy training onward, police are trained to protect the city from potential lawsuits and to “take charge.” In fact, contrary to what most people think, the job of the police is not to protect citizens or their property.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent…  (See also NY Times.)

The primary job of the municipal police is to protect government property, personnel and “policy.” (eg police.)

  • Officer safety, and many other reasons are given as justifications for police not being caught on tape.

According to attorney Michael Ehline:

When a citizen does not comply, many times he or she finds a ride to the local jail, and thousands in attorney’s fees for fighting off a frivolous Penal Code Section 148 charge.  Although the courts have already made clear that citizens can generally film police, with certain exceptions, such as safety demanding that filmers be well clear of the potential danger zone.

Unfortunately, in the Golden State, each jurisdiction and department liked to handle these primarily “false arrest” cases differently. Sadly, the many state prosecutorial agencies needed to see it in writing from the governor before they would force their officers to start honoring the law on filming police. California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 411, which gives citizens the right to film police professionals while on duty.

This means when police officers are detaining a suspect or making an arrest witnesses who have been using cell phones to record the incidents or even the person being detained recording the event can now do so legally in the state of California. In the past many of the recorded videos have been posted to social media websites or YouTube and then gone viral. According to Sacramento County Sgt. Jason Ramos it is the way the world has become and people are interested when they witness law enforcement interaction with individuals. Cops hate it!

  • Yawn

Sgt. Ramos did say that in many cases the officers jobs are more dangerous because of witnesses recording the scene. There is a potential for officers to become preoccupied with the people making the videos. The law enforcement officer went on to say there is a “fine line between being a diligent citizen with a camera and interfering.” I call nonsense. A diligent citizen would simply remain outside the zone of interference, and exercise good judgment. The film of the altercation can at least show evidence of reasonableness, or not.

State Senator Ricardo Lara was the author of Senate Bill 411 and says he believes it is important for it to be clear in a statute for an average citizen to be able to lawfully record police officer without concern of being arrested or intimidated.  Of course, knowing cops as I know them, this will not stop cameras from being stomped, and other methods being employed in order to “get control.”

Lara said that having the code into California law cell phone evidence has the ability to keep people safe.
The new law comes after an early August incident where a Rohnert Park officer pointed a gun at a man who recorded the event on his cell phone. The law enforcement officer is now facing a lawsuit. One of the cell phone videos recorded made national headlines. This was the Eric Garner choking video.

Lara said everyone has cell phones today and now can be used to “deter violence.” The Garner video is one of the examples and cell phone videos can provide evidence in police wrong doing investigations. The Senator did make it clear the bill does not in any way give citizens the legal right to interfere with police, which is already what the law was prior to the bill being passed.

Senator Lara had support from the ACLU for passing of Senate Bill 411, saying in a written statement to the senator the bill will help to ensure every citizen is able to exercise their Constitutional right by making audio or video recordings or taking photographs. The letter goes on to say it is a “clear constitutional right to photograph and record the police in the performance of their duties.”

The letter concludes by stating the bill ensures the public’s right to gather information about their officials in the uncovering of abuses and it may have an effect on the functioning of government in a more general sense. We applaud the ACLU’s efforts at getting the state to notify its agencies what the law is, but we question the need to spend so much time and effort on this. Passing a law to make law what already is the law is not an efficient administration of justice, and also sheds light on why jury nullification is making more and more sense.

California Weather and Icy Roadways

Ice machines in front of a store covered in snow during a storm.

Ice machines in front of a store covered in snow during a storm.

For people residing or passing through Southern California, snow and ice are not what they typically will encounter unless they drive up into the mountains during the winter time. But amazingly, we experience black ice near the beach in areas like Rancho Palos Verdes, for example. So yeah, ice happens where ill equipped California drivers least expect it.

Ice on the roadway is one of the most dangerous weather related situations the California driver will likely face. This more dangerous than the rain and fog driver’s in California face, since the only comparable driving hazard would be hydroplaning on wet pavement, which leaves the driver with no control.

Annually, the state of California reports that there are hundreds of serious motor vehicle accidents, with some resulting in fatalities due to the slippery condition of the roadways. In California the total percentage of accidents related to icy conditions on the road number much lower than non-weather related crashes, but even low in number collisions occurring on ice slicked roads warrant concern.

One of the most dangerous types of icing conditions on the roadway is called black ice, which is water that once night falls it freezes and is often not visible to drivers at night. In some cases the driver may see the ice illuminate from the headlights of the vehicle in time to use extra caution driving on this section of the pavement.

Reducing Ice Related Accidents

Having a little knowledge is important during the colder months of the year and having access to current weather information can help to keep drivers and their passengers safe. Being prepared for icy conditions is essential when operating a motor vehicle or in any of the variety of weather conditions that can result in ice forming on roadways.

A few things to remember during cooler weather are:

  • If there is fog and the temperature is near freezing 32F, heavy icing is possible on asphalt and concrete.
  • Bridges often freeze before roadways in near freezing temperatures.
  • Low lying areas and valleys often have icing conditions first, since cold air settles in these areas.
  • When the sky is clear, but there is moisture on the road and the temperature falls below the upper 30’s the roads can become icy.

What Conditions Cause Icing on Roads if it isn’t Raining or Sleeting?

Ice on roadways is not always from rain or freezing rain the moisture can come from several other weather factors and temperatures around 32F or freezing.

  • Fog settling on the roadway combined with freezing temperatures can cause heavy icing.
  • Frost, which is a collection of frozen moisture from the air that can be seen after sunset, during the night and early morning.
  • Water from snow that has melted during traffic from the warming of the roadway. Then when the roadway cools and temperatures dip during the day or at night causing the melted snow water to freeze.
  • Ground water seepage, which then freezes on the road due to the air temperature.
  • Freezing rain, which is also called sleet can build up on the road causing icy conditions rather than melting because of freezing air temperatures.

These conditions can occur one at a time or can be a combination with more than one making the roads hazardous.

Valleys and Low Lying Areas

Valleys and low lying areas often have icy road conditions when other areas may not have any problems with roadways. This is because cold air is heavier and denser than warm air causing it to move down from higher elevations, even if it only a minor hill.

Clear nights with relatively few clouds results in colder temperatures and surfaces like asphalt tend to cool faster and cooler than the air above. This causes low lying areas to often be as much as 2-5 degrees colder than elevated areas a short distance away. City temperatures are warmer than rural areas even at night because of the amount of traffic and buildings that retain heat from the daylight hours. But this is often a double edged sword, since the warmth can melt freezing rain, snow and rain from creating slick conditions.

When the traffic slows and evening falls temperatures decrease causing water on the roadway to freeze when the temperatures are low. There are some areas where the air may be colder than other areas and is referred to in meteorology terms as thermal signatures. What this means to the person driving on the road is while other areas are just wet coming across a small area where the temperature is colder can mean ice or black ice, which is difficult to see at night.

Fog and Ice

Fog occurs when there is moisture in the air and temperatures drop the dew point. This moisture is thick and dense containing large amounts of water. When it is carried by air current and passes over roadways if the temperature is below freezing it can result in severe icing in a matter of minutes and can happen on an otherwise clear night.cCold nights with fog blanketing a roadway can and has resulted in numerous serious accidents due to roadway icing when temperatures have dipped into the mid 30’s.

Frost and Icy Roadways

Frost is moisture that settles on the ground on cool and usually clear nights with low wind speeds, usually under 10 mph. The creation of frost touches on infrared radiation, which clouds absorb and emit and warmer objects emit more infrared radiation. Clear nights the surface or ground emits infrared radiation without the clouds to absorb this just is lost to space, resulting in the surface and air to cool rapidly.

The air away from the surface is warmer and the increasing height of the air is referred to as inversion. Cloudy night’s inversion does not occur, because the clouds basically blanket the surface by preventing the quick loss of infrared radiation or heat. Air contains water vapor that cannot be seen until it condenses into ice crystals and the amount of water air can contain varies with the temperature.

Warmer air contains more water vapor and if the air is cooled to the dew point the moisture cannot be held as an invisible gas in the air. This forces the water vapor to condense into drops or ice crystals falling from the air. The ground surface being cooled to near freezing temperatures from night temperatures, and the air reaching the dew point result in frost. This is why when the sun is out frost is not seen and melts rapidly from surfaces due to the rise in temperature or increased infrared radiation.

The more vapor there is in the air the more frost will form, such as areas with swamps, lakes and ponds will have a higher density of vapor in the air and result in a thicker blanket of frost. Frost is also more prevalent in lower lying areas than in higher elevations where wind speeds are usually lower. Generally frost does not accumulate more than 1/16 of an inch and while that seems like a minute amount of the ice crystals it can create a dangerous situation on roadways where it has formed.

This thing coating of ice can make it more difficult to stop and other driving functions more difficult. Frost is responsible for numerous motor vehicle accidents due to the thin coating of ice on roadways it creates.
Drivers should be alert to roadway conditions when the sky is basically cloud free and the night air temperatures are in the mid 30’s.

Freezing Rain

This is rain that has frozen due to the air temperatures or nearly frozen and may be referred to as freezing rain, sleet or drizzle. The way this occurs is because of a layer of air, which is below freezing near the surface with warmer air that is above freezing higher in the atmosphere. As the rain falls because the air higher is warm and passes through the temperatures that are below freezing it then freezes upon hitting the surface. This rain turns into a glazing ice on the surfaces because of being cooled and has the ability to make tree limbs heavy enough to snap and power lines. This can make driving dangerous.

Areas of California can experience freezing rain when the air temperatures are right and helped by low level cold with warm rain coming in from the Pacific. This results in rain freezing on contact with the surface and making higher lavations treacherous because of the warm Pacific weather systems coming into the coast where warm rain falls and when the air temperatures are in the area of 32 degrees it causes freezing rain and in higher mountain locations of the state it often changes over to snow. High winds can result in temperatures plummeting and result in freezing surface areas.

Snow and Ground Water Seepage

Ground water in lower lying areas and melted snow in the upper elevations of California can freeze as the temperatures drop. During the day roadways heat up due to traffic and the warmer daytime temperatures causing water seepage or melted snow to keep from freezing on the asphalt. Once the traffic slows and the night temperatures begin this standing water or wet asphalt can freeze resulting in dangerous driving conditions for motorists.

Roadways made of pavement also known as blacktop roadways heat up by absorbing heat from the sun, which then melts any ice, but as soon as dusk arrives and there is no longer heat absorption the road quickly cools and if the temperatures are freezing the seepage or melted snow then freezes especially if there are few clouds in the sky. This is because cloud cover acts as an insulator during cold weather.

Any time the road surface temperature is above freezing during the day, but falls below freezing at night they can become icy and hazardous for motorists. This condition often occurs on roads that have had the snow plowed in higher elevations and in lower elevations where there is a water source that spreads onto the roadway. On cold nights without cloud cover the cold night air causes evaporation of heat from the roadway and then with the temperatures near freezing the wet areas turns to ice even in low areas where cold air tends to pool.


Slush is melted snow that generally affects the higher elevations in the state of California and is caused when snow begins to fall rapidly and the road surface is warm due to the sun and traffic. Then when the temperatures fall either quickly or because of the lack of warm the partially melted snow freezes and are called slush. This is a mixture of snow, ice and while it is much wetter than snow alone it is also more hazardous for drivers and it can turn to solid ice in the right temperatures.

Bridges Freeze Before Roadways

Bridges often freeze before roadways become icy for a number of reasons, first it may depend on the material the bridge is made from as they often are not covered with asphalt, but might be concrete. Concrete does not hold the same warmth as asphalt because of sun radiation and traffic, which means the colder temperature the faster the bridge will become dangerous during winter driving conditions. Bridges also do not have ground beneath them, leaving room for more cold air to affect the temperature of the bridge even if it is covered with pavement.

Another factor why bridges may freeze quicker than roadways is because they might not absorb the same amount of heat as the roadway the wet conditions from rain, freezing rain or snow may not completely melt or if it does the surface does not dry because the water may have no place to drain. When night temperatures or rapidly falling temperatures occur the surface cools fast making a perfect condition for the liquid to freeze.

Air Temperature and Surface Temperature

Air temperature is generally determined using a thermometer about five feet from the ground and often in an enclosed shelter. This is how official weather reports are decided for daily and nightly temperatures. Roadway and other surface temperatures are far different than the temperature taken above the surface, since cold is heavier due to the moisture contained in the air. The ground temperature can be between 2 and 5 degrees cooler than air temperature, which is why frost can occur even when the air temperature is between 35 and 37 degrees, a temperature that is above freezing.

During the day the road temperature can often be warmer than the air temperature due to cars and trucks warming the surface, along with the sun’s radiation. Once the night temperature falls and traffic decreases the warmth of the surface decreases and on nights that have few clouds the surface temperature cools rapidly. Icing conditions can occur when the surface temperature hits 32 degrees, yet the air temperature may be as high as 37 degrees.

Temperatures and Ice Slippery Conditions

Temperature changes during icy conditions can mean the ice changes and can become more slippery as the temperature warms to near freezing. This is because of the way ice is formed on surfaces according to science. Ice has a thin layer of water on the outside even when the temperatures are below freezing. This layer of water makes the ice slippery and is thickest when the temperature nears freezing and thins when the temperature well below 32 degrees.

This creates a condition where the ice is the most slippery when the temperatures are between 26 and 32 degrees. When the temperature reaches single digits and below 0 degrees the ice becomes less slippery, this means the most caution should be used by motorists when the air temperature is between 32 and 26 degrees, since this is when the ice on roadways will be the most dangerous.

Other Effects

  • Trees and Objects

Trees near roadways can cause shading of the surface as well as hills and other objects and can result in the potential icing of roads and the length of time the roadway remains icy. Trees that overhang on roadways or objects that cover the road can actually block the loss of infrared heading from the sun and lessen the potential for frost.

Often when frost is seen on the grass and other surfaces including roads a driveway may contain frost, but the car might not if it was parked underneath a carport. This is because the roof of the carport would have reduced the amount of heat loss or air containing moisture. The other side of this is roadways that do become icy and have tree cover may remain icy much later into the day than other areas of the road because the tree cover is shielding the roadway from absorbing infrared heat from the sun until the sun moves to a location where the roadway can absorb the heat.

Because driver’s may not take this situation into consideration or may not be prepared for these unexpected areas of ice that might last later into the day or even all day where motorists can hit unexpected areas of ice protected by shade. This leads to car accidents that are often fatal.

Night Temperatures and Icing

Nights that are clear and cold result in the surface losing heat quickly, which generally occurs within the first three or four hours after sunset. The temperatures can even begin falling before sunset on surfaces such as roadway areas that have shade from trees and other objects. In colder temperatures this can create icing conditions on these parts of the roadway earlier in the day and the temperature of the surcace will continue to drop more rapidly than other areas if there are no clouds or fog.

Temperatures will fall slowly during the night and be the lowest near sunrise or a short time after sunrise. Nights that have fog will have less ice conditions on surfaces then clear nights because the fog acts as a thermal blanket. The nights that have icing the largest threat for ice on roadways that is dangerous to motorists is between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.

Threat of Roadway Ice Tips

During months of cool or cold weather when ice can be a roadway threat, motorists may be safer using some of the information about what causes icy conditions and keeping them in mind while driving.

  • Clear Sky: When the sky is clear when the weather is cool, especially at night the night temperatures can rapidly fall near or after sunset. Monitoring local weather channels can help to determine clear skies and night time temperatures.
  • Official weather temperatures are observed by thermometers that are approximately 5 feet from the surface, which means surface temperatures can be several degrees colder. If the air temperature is 37 degrees the surface temperature can actually be 32 degrees or freezing. This means moisture in the air or rain can freeze on contact with the surface or within a short amount of time.
  • There are websites that have real time weather and surface temperature information for the state of California motorists can use to determine if their location or one they will travel too has issues with rain, frost, snow or ice on the roadways. Using the temperatures, cloud, fog or clear skies motorists can also determine possible driving conditions.
  • Fog is something motorists should pay close attention to during days of cool weather. When the temperature is below the mid 30’s and there is fog, it can travel over roadway surfaces and leave large amounts of ice quickly. This is especially important in areas where there are wet or swampy areas and river valleys. Areas where this is a possible scenario and the road is curvy extreme caution should be used by the driver on cold nights.
  • Roadway areas that may be shaded from the sun on nights when the roads become icy may have ice until later in the morning and in some cases it may remain on this area of the roadway all day when temperatures remain in the 30’s.
  • Unforeseen objects: During conditions when ice may be a factor on the roadway caution should be used and the potential for unforeseen objects such as animals. This combination has the potential for fatal accidents.

As can be seen, ice sheets can form on the road surfaces in many parts of the Golden State. Reaction times and control over vehicles can be severely compromised during icy conditions. California drivers not accustomed to icy road conditions are at particular risk of losing control and are cautioned to reduce vehicles speeds when traversing areas in particular where frost has developed in the surrounding vicinity.

Transvestite Olympian Going Down for Crimes?

Personal Injury car accident attorney Mike Ehline

Michael Ehline accident attorney

Caitlyn, formerly Bruce Jenner has made many headlines over the last several years. The world famous Olympian became even more famous when he was undergoing a gender reassignment surgery, which since then has captured the public’s imagination and even received the public endorsement of the president of the United States. Already a well-known figure, Jenner’s actions have increased “her” profile even further. This is one of the reasons why the February car crash that killed the driver of another car had such a high profile. There has been sort of a back and forth lately over whether or not criminal charges are likely or not likely.

Background of the Bruce Jenner Car Accident

In the accident, Jenner was driving a Cadillac Escalade that hit a Lexus driven by Kim Howe.  The Lexus was then hit by a Hummer. Ms. Howe died of her injuries. Her family being sued for $18.5 million by those inside the Hummer. They allege that the wrongful death occurred due to negligent driving, as reported by the UK Independent. Allegations were swirling about on some of the news stations, that Jenner was undergoing hormone therapy in order to try and become more female like, and that these hormones could have affected his mental state, and judgment negatively, leading to the crash.

Now NBC News is reporting that Jenner may also face a criminal case over the accident. She may face a manslaughter charge if deemed by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. TMZ is saying no way:

…sources connected to the office tell TMZ the initial sentiment is that the collision was a tragic accident but not criminal. (Source.)

Assuming TMZ is not wrong, it would appear that prosecutors are done studying various factors, including the use of mind altering drugs such as pain medicine, alcohol, the various speeds and locations of the vehicles involved, including Jenner’s and Howe’s vehicles at the time of the crash. A defense attorney interviewed by NBC News also said that he believed that any charges are unlikely. However, as California’s manslaughter statute reads, if Jenner was believed to be criminally negligent, charges could be filed. In cases like this, a wrongful death claim is almost certain to be pursued by any survivor with standing. If convicted of a crime, Jenner may face consequences anywhere from a fine to a year in jail.

Implications of Jenner’s Criminal Conviction in a Future Civil Case

If charges are filed and Jenner is found guilty, the implications in any civil suit could be tremendous. Since criminal negligence would be established in court as part of the criminal case, it would be much easier to do so in a civil case. The civil burden of proof regarding such negligent driving is significantly lower than in criminal cases. A criminal conviction would not only cost Jenner in a court of law, but likely result in a payout to Ms. Howe’s immediate family.

All of this illustrates the sometimes fine line between criminal and civil courts. Due to criminal cases needing to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, there are often civil cases that piggyback on such charges after a wrongful death or injury. Jenner may be able to escape both in the end, but in the meantime the star will need to work closely with her lawyers to avoid jail time or a significant settlement.

Such a reality is also important for car accident victims on both sides should strongly consider. Those that could be found responsible for an accident should immediately contact an attorney specialized in car accidents to determine the exact cause of the accident and how best to proceed. Anyone injured in such a manner should ensure that they are properly covered legally to avoid confusion, a civil case, or any other negative repercussions. Of course, if the leaks are true and TMZ has it right, the scales against criminal are tipped against collateral estoppel or res judicata, and yet are still no bar to any recovery in a civil case for wrongful death.

In fact, negligence in a civil case requires a preponderance of the evidence standard, which is lower than for a criminal action, and is quoted below:

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] was harmed by [name of defendant]’s negligence. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of defendant] was negligent;

2. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

3. That [name of defendant]’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm. (CACI 400)

(See also damages jury instructions here.)

So the bottom line is, it is probably game on for a wrongful death lawsuit for the Olympian turned woman. We will follow the case and report on any developments as the arise.

Understanding the Zone of Danger as Taught in Law Schools

In the aftermath of a serious accident resulting in injury, it is vital to be able to have as much information as possible. When faced with the prospect of having to litigate, the appropriate knowledge of case precedent and how it could affect your future should be foremost in your mind. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, this can work in your favor and help you make your life whole again.

Winning an Injury Case Means Understanding the Scope of Liability

This can be seen in the scope of liability precedent established by Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Company. In this 1928 case, a woman was injured due to actions of several railroad employees. These workers helped a man they thought was falling, inadvertently causing him to drop a package full of fireworks. This resulted in an explosion that hurt the woman, Mrs. Helen Palsgraf. She was awarded money for the negligence of the railroad company in the resulting court case. However, upon appeal, the ruling was overturned and the woman was forced to pay the railroad company’s legal bills.

This case is one of the most common lessons for new law students. The case set up an important distinction when dealing with the liability of defendants in similar cases. It was determined that the railroad company had no duty to protect passerby from such an incident, as it could not be considered reasonable. Property owners and businesses can be held liable if they know of or should reasonably responsible for a situation which can cause harm for those on the property or taking part in commerce with them.

It is important to remember some of the key factors in dealing with liability:

  • A duty of care is often defined as not simply a wrong committed by a party, but also the reasonable expectation of responsibility for the plaintiff’s well being. In this case, Mrs. Palsgraf could not be expected to be injured due to unforeseen circumstances involving fireworks. There was no perceptible danger and nothing directly involving errors in the function of the rail line that caused the injury. There was no reason to believe that helping a falling man would cause a third party injury across the station. In any event, the injuries were outside the relative zone of danger.

There are cases where such a company or property owner can be held liable. This can be the case when an owner makes a wrongful act and was not cognizant of the potential damage it could do. This could include attempting to hurt someone and injuring a third party, or engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior knowingly. Still, this standard is held within what is considered reasonable.

This case continues to define the role of personal liability and injury cases to this day. Finding the line where responsibility of the defendant starts and ends is a must for all up and coming attorneys. The most skilled will be able to pinpoint this and be able to assist their client, where it be the defendant or plaintiff. It looks like Palsgraf v. Long Island will be a landmark case for another century, at least.

Drunk Keeps Driving With Dying Person On Car

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By Ehline Law Firm PC – Torrance California—Here is a case that happened right down the street from my house and I am still shocked. According to police a woman struck a pedestrian, while suspected of being under the influence, and then went ahead and drove with the pedestrian on her windshield for over 2 miles.

Torrance Resident Drives 2 Miles With Person She Hit On Here Windshield?

Sherri Wilkins age 51 of Torrance, was booked Saturday night for suspicion of driving under the influence and manslaughter in the Torrance County jail, Torrance Police Lieutenant Stephen D’Anjou said. The pedestrian that was struck and died has been identified as Philip Moreno age 31, of Torrance.

Dead Man Was Crossing the Street

Authorities said Wilkins was traveling westbound on Torrance Boulevard, when Moreno was struck in the vicinity of Madrid Avenue at approximately 11:25 p.m., while he was crossing Torrance Avenue. After striking the 31 year-old man, she made a right turn on Crenshaw Boulevard and kept driving. Wilkins continued driving, after hitting the pedestrian about another 2.3 miles Lt. D’Anjou said. Police said the man was embedded in Wilkins windshield and she was pursued by witnesses to stop, who saw the victim.

The woman finally was persuaded to stop in the vicinity of Crenshaw Boulevard and 182nd Street, when concerned citizens surrounded her vehicle. Torrance Police Sgt. Robert Watt said, Moreno was embedded into the hood of Wilkins Mitsubishi Eclipse and into the windshield, she knew he was there and panicked. Authorities are unsure of what speed Wilkins was traveling, when she struck Moreno. Authorities said Moreno was able to speak to paramedics, but was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Woman Was Twice the Legal Limit?

Police said Wilkins blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit to drive and she told police officers she was on her way home from work. According to county court records, Wilkins was charged with driving under the influence, being under the influence of a controlled substance and leaving the scene of an accident. She was charged on these offenses July, 16, 2010.

Is There Even a Chance the Family Will Be Able to Recover Money Damages?

In other articles, we discussed wrongful death laws. This is a clear case of an egregious death, and if true, the woman is liable both civilly and criminally. The biggest issue here, is the insurance. If the woman has little to no assets, she will still need to pay a lawyer to defend her case, or she will have to get a public defender in the criminal matter. So if she burns up her assets paying for lawyers, the survivors will have only a car insurance policy to seek recovery from, if there is even insurance at all. So although there is a chance of recovery, most people that irresponsible have the bar minimum insurance of $15,000.00. So unless she was in the course and scope of employment, the defendant may not be able to pay the family what they are owed for the loss of their loved one.

Blog To Prevent This Type of Horror!

These fact patterns are precisely what injury and DUI lawyers need to blog about. Make people aware of the consequences of drinking and driving saves lives! Just do it!

Glendale California Tops Providence Rhode Island for Worst Drivers

By Michael P. Ehline, Esq. This is pretty interesting and better late than never. I am always driving through Glendale, and they have some crazy roads, so I can fully understand this report. The annual report for Allstate’s America’s Best Drivers Report has been released. This is the yearly report that analyzes data from America’s 200 largest cities drivers.

This year Providence Rhode Island drivers have reached the 5th worse in the country. They were topped by Glendale California, Newark New Jersey, and Baltimore Maryland, with Washington D.C. coming in at number one. Allstate in their analysis of drivers consider the amount of time that drivers in each of the 200 cities drive without involvement in an accident.

This analysis predicts that drivers nationwide go approximately 10 years without involvement in an accident. This same prediction of drivers being involved in a crash is not the same for drivers in Providence, their estimate is approximately 6 years. In Washington D.C. it is even less with the accident rate for drivers at approximately 4.8 years to be involved in a fender-bender.

The report stated that the best driver’s in the country live in Sioux Falls South Dakota, and have typically 13.8 years between motor vehicle accidents. For Providence, like other cities this is not the first time driver’s have been ranked badly for their habits. Men’s Health Magazine ranked the city in March as the 5th highest rated city nationwide for accidents.